Summer Food Safety Tips for Outdoor Cooking
Whether you are at a picnic, barbecue, camping or on the road to your next destination, food-borne illnesses are very common especially during summer when high temperatures can speed up the bacterial growth.
At a Barbeque
•Separate raw meat from raw veggies. In order to avoid cross-contamination, use a separate cutting board, platter and serving dishes for each type of food.
•Don’t leave sauces such as ketchup, mayonnaise, or mustard out while you’re waiting for the food to cook (especially in the sun). Bring them out of the fridge only when the food is ready to be served, and quickly put them away after you finish eating.
•Do not serve undercooked burgers. Cook beef, pork and lamb burgers to a minimum internal temp of 71°C; aim for 75°C with poultry.
•Thaw meat thoroughly before cooking it, so it will be cooked evenly. Otherwise, still-frozen spots in the meat might be undercooked, which will allow bacteria to survive the cooking process.
•Thaw and marinate food in the refrigerator, not at room temperature on the kitchen counter. Do not reuse marinade that came into contact with raw meat.
•It’s very important to cook meat thoroughly even if it takes longer time. In case you want to cut down grilling time, precook the meat slightly in the microwave or oven before you grill it. In order to determine if meat is fully cooked, use a meat thermometer.
•Make sure that the meat is very well cooked, by cutting into the meat before serving to inspect for signs of pinkness or blood.
•If you’re not going to eat the grilled food immediately, keep it hot (above 60 degrees). Don’t leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
On the Road
•When shopping at the grocery store, save the meat aisle for your last stop, don’t drive around to do other errands after it—take the meat home to your refrigerator first. Or, if you have to do other stops, put a cooler in your car to keep the meat cold.
•After you eat, make sure that food is kept chilled. Food shouldn’t stay out of the refrigerator or oven at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
•Allow enough time for the food to cool down in the refrigerator, if you’re cooking ahead of time, chill it in small containers rather than one large container to make sure that it’s chilled thoroughly.
•Always pack your food in several small containers so the second helpings stay cold in the cooler.
•Pack your cooler with plenty of ice to ensure that the temperature is below 4°C. Bacteria multiply quickly on food kept at temperatures between 4°C & 60 °C.
•Always keep drinks in a different cooler than the perishable foods. People tend to reach for drinks more frequently, causing the ice to melt more rapidly.
•Don’t put the cooler in the trunk of your car. Put it in the air-conditioned portion of the car.
•Keep the cooler away from the sunlight when you arrive to your destination.
•Place leftovers in the cooler, immediately after everyone eats. Throw away any food left out for more than 2 hours.
•Go by the saying: ‘If in doubt, throw it out!’ It’s best not to risk it and get food poisoning.
At a Picnic
•Don’t ruin your food. Perishable items left out for 2 or more hours should not be eaten, especially if they contain mayonnaise. Instead of setting out a whole container at once, place a small portion into the serving dish and then refill it from your cooler if necessary.
•Throw away any used condiments. If everyone was eating from the same jar of jam or butter over the course of a picnic, there is a good chance that bacteria might be found in them. Put them out into smaller containers, buy squeeze bottles, or toss the open jars when the meal is over.
On a Campout
•Keep the coolers cold. Before packing them, chill each one with ice for 30 minutes.
•Prepare the ingredients in advance. Cut down the fruits and veggies, make burger patties, and marinate your chicken at home, then put the items in sealed bags in a cooler.
•Create hand-washing station. If there is no running water nearby, set up 2 washing tubs: one full of hot (boiled) water and soap and another one with cold water.
Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian